During summer, you can attend free rehearsals of Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. No ticket is required and you can come or go at your leisure. In this post, we’ll offer our thoughts on this free concert (more “sorta concert”) and whether this Southern California experience is worth your time.
Open rehearsals occur on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. These begin for the summer season in early July and occur through the early fall. In addition to the Tuesday and Thursday rehearsals of the LA Phil, some other performers also have open rehearsals for their concerts throughout the week.
Whether you’re a tourist or an Angeleno, the Hollywood Bowl is always a good time. SoCal residents know the Hollywood Bowl as the best outdoor venue for summer concerts and the largest natural outdoor amphitheater in the United States. It’s not just one of the world’s best venues and public parks–the Hollywood Bowl is a Los Angeles icon, and these rehearsals are a great way to experience it…
Your best bet to catch a rehearsal, whether it be the LA Philharmonic or another performer on the schedule, is to call ahead of time and make sure that the rehearsal is open on that particular day. While we’ve yet to have an issue with the LA Phil rehearsals being open, we’re told that it does happen.
The final schedule for the week is released every Monday, and if you call (323) 850-2000 and speak with an operator, they can provide you with the dates and times of open rehearsals for the week. The rehearsal schedule is not published on the Hollywood Bowl’s online calendar, so you have to call.
The plus side of having to call is that the free rehearsals at the Hollywood Bowl are a really under-the-radar thing to do. At most, the rehearsals fill 5% of the total seating in the Hollywood Bowl. Despite summer being the busiest tourist season for Hollywood, these rehearsals are devoid of people. It’s a great change of pace activity.
I’ve pointed to “free” being a selling point above, but want to emphasize it some more. This is totally, no-strings-attached free. Not only is the performance free to watch, but parking is also free. That’s a rarity in Hollywood, and is a nice added bonus.
I called these Hollywood Bowl shows ‘sorta concerts’ above because that’s the best way to describe them. Even though you can stick around to watch the LA Phil perform for 3 hours, it is ultimately a practice session. Sometimes the Philharmonic abruptly stops, repeats sections, and makes tweaks.
We find this fascinating, and if you’re close enough, you can hear conductor Gustavo Dudamel critiquing the orchestra and even yelling suggestions over the music on the fly. The rehearsals also don’t have the atmosphere or energy of an actual concert. It’s all much more laid back and lower energy. This isn’t necessarily bad (we still really enjoy it!), it’s just a different experience.
One thing you’ll notice at the LA Phil rehearsals is a lot of kids. I assume this is because children under 6 years old are flat out not allowed into LA Phil concerts at Walt Disney Concert Hall and older kids are strongly discouraged from attending due to the “adult sophistication” of the venue. The Hollywood Bowl rehearsals are thus a great opportunity for parents to see the LA Phil without having to hire a babysitter, which is great.
Just be mindful that the ambiance at these rehearsals is very relaxed. People read the newspaper, picnic, and generally are more disruptive than what would be tolerated at Walt Disney Concert Hall. If you want an optimal concert experience, the closest you’ll get to that here (in our experience) is finding a group of older people, and sitting by them. That’s our strategy, and we’ve found it works pretty well.
Most of the audience is full of season ticket holders to the LA Phil (who receive “better” seating in a closer section) and regulars of the rehearsals. It’s easy to spot the regulars–they are the ones wearing safari hats, holding umbrellas, or sitting on the far right side of the seating areas, where the shade remains throughout the rehearsal.
Speaking of which, we recommend these things–big hats or an umbrella, and plenty of sunscreen. In lieu of that, sit on the far right side of the Hollywood Bowl’s seating area. Like, all the way to the edge. When the rehearsal starts at 9:30 a.m., the heat usually is not too bad, and the sun is still fairly low in the sky.
As the rehearsal progresses, the shade slowly disappears, and guests who originally sat on in the middle of rows will start relocating (aside from those with the huge umbrellas). By the time noon rolls around, people are huddled in what little shade remains, with usually only around 10 spots at the far right of each row entirely in the shade.
It’s almost comical: you have this gigantic venue that seats thousands…with only a hundred or so people in it, but all of those people are pretty closely congregated into one small area of shade by noon. Plan accordingly and just sit on the very far right to begin with. Alternatively, show up right when the rehearsal starts, and plan on leaving by the intermission (which is usually around 11 a.m.).
There are some rules for the rehearsals at Hollywood Bowl, but they seem to vary based upon who’s performing and whether the staff are enforcing the rules. Some seating areas are typically blocked off (in any case, you’ll want to sit in the shade) and photography is sometimes prohibited during performances.
While you’re at the Hollywood Bowl for the free rehearsal, we’d also recommend making the most of your visit by stopping into the Hollywood Bowl Museum. This museum is also free, and it primarily covers the history of the Hollywood Bowl’s iconic architecture, and major performances that have occurred over the course of the years.
The museum is relatively small, but provides an excellent overview of why the Hollywood Bowl is such a significant venue in the landscape of Los Angeles, and its significance in music history. I’d recommend allocating about 20 minutes to the museum for a comprehensive experience. I doubt you’d need any more time than that.
Overall, we consider attending a rehearsal at the Hollywood Bowl a must-do if you’re visiting Los Angeles during the summer. It’s free, enjoyable, and a nice open-air activity in a quintessential Southern California venue. Even if you’ve done (or are going to do) a concert at the Hollywood Bowl, this offers a different perspective on the fabled venue. We first learned about these free rehearsals in the L.A. Times, which called them one of the best-kept secrets in Los Angeles. We definitely agree with that.
If you’re planning an L.A. vacation, check out our Ultimate Guide to Los Angeles. For even more things to do, The Best Things to Do in Los Angeles: 1001 Ideas is an exceptional resource, which is written by locals (and we use it even as locals!). If you enjoyed this post, help spread the word by sharing it via social media. Thanks for reading!
Have you done been to the Hollywood Bowl? If so, what did you think of experience? Have you attended one of the free LA Phil rehearsals? Any additional tips to add that we didn’t cover? If you haven’t been to the Hollywood Bowl, is it something that interests you? Hearing your feedback about your experiences is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!